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Songistry – using artificial intelligence to rock the music industry

“We’re solving some incredible problems within the global music industry,” says Curtis Serna, CEO of Songistry, “and we’re thrilled to be doing it right here in the Edmonton region.”

Songistry is using the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to unlock value across the entertainment industry. It’s run by the innovative minds of CEO Curtis Serna, two-time nominee for Entrepreneur of the Year in Canada and Justin Gray, Founder and Chief Creative Officer. Justin is a Canadian born producer and songwriter who has worked with top tier artists, Avril Lavigne, Mariah Carey, John Legend, Amy Winehouse, and international artists including J-Pop Super Stars Superjunior, Chinese Mega Star Chris Lee and most recently enjoyed twelve, #1 hits in China including a hit with TF Boys’ Roy Wang. Justin brings a combination of music credibility and a personal understanding of the challenges faced by artists and the entertainment industry related to digital copyright, publishing, and royalties.

In 2019, approximately 46 million music creators and corporations lost out on the opportunity to collect royalties due to a lack of copyright information (often referred to as “metadata”), resulting in a 2.5-billion-dollar loss (USD). Songistry’s premier product, MDIIO (Music Data Intelligence In/Out), solves this problem and more. MDIIO is a music asset/copyright management tool and marketplace that leverages the latest developments in AI to protect the work of music creatives worldwide. By using copyright and other metadata details, MDIIO helps artists and music corporations protect their hard work, assets, and livelihoods. MDIIO is driven to provide Canadian artists a scientific, competitive advantage in getting their music discovered and licensed in TV/ film and advertising.

Justin was first inspired to create the platform when he realized how vulnerable songwriters were to being taken advantage of.

“A system that hasn’t traditionally supported songwriters is ripe for disruption,” said Justin. “Having worked in music for 20 plus years, I was really saddened to see songwriters and creators getting the short end of the stick. Especially with the onset of digital music streaming. Songwriters were the slowest to adapt and therefore the most vulnerable. I wanted to make sure that songwriters were provided a platform that not only fostered their creativity and organized their assets, but also democratized monetization of their hard work.”

Justin Gray, Founder and Chief Creative Officer

When Justin was introduced to Curtis, who initially came on as an investor it quickly became evident that Curtis had the commercialization expertise that Songistry needed to help bring MDIIO to life and to help protect the interest of songwriters.

Curtis Serna, CEO

MDIIO is now being featured in Global Affairs Canada’s Spring 2020 Software and Technologies Dealbook. The Dealbook is “a tool formulated to increase exposure to some of Canada’s most promising technology companies,” says Chief Trade Commissioner of Canada, Aillish Campbell. MDIIO fits the bill and their placement in the Dealbook has helped Songistry increase its profile to international audiences. In the first day the Dealbook was launched, Songistry was approached by two venture capital groups from Silicon Valley, that are interested in leading the investment into the Edmonton-based company.

The MDIIO platform allows creatives, from songwriters to artists, to musicians, bands, DJ’s and composers, to upload their music, apply metadata to their copyright, and then register the song with SOCAN, Canada’s performance rights organization that collects royalties for members. SOCAN is comprised of 170,000 members, 86% of which are unaffiliated independent artists and songwriters. MDIIO represents and helps protect these artists and their copyrights, while getting their work in front of companies such as Netflix, Hallmark, and Sony to name just a few studio networks. MDIIO works as a marketplace where these companies can come to license music for various projects – allowing more artists to monetize their work and gain exposure by leveraging science as their competitive advantage.

MDIIO has multiple features specifically designed to help spotlight the work of indie creators while simultaneously helping music supervisors find new music for their tv/ film or advertising projects. These licensors that use MDIIO have access to features such as mood track analysis, and dynamic emotional analysis (visualizing the emotion of the song on a second by second basis), as well as several additional A.I. features in development – all designed to allow licensors to find that perfect song that evokes the right emotions and story alignment without the complexity and the higher price points often associated with more well-known songs. For example, a mainstream Bruno Mars song can be licensed on average for $500,000. MDIIO’s recommendation/ search engine can identify songs that sound similar to Bruno Mars for a fraction of the cost, making the value proposition very attractive to licensors and network studios.

Creators who use MDIIO don’t have to compromise between gaining exposure and a paycheck. MDIIO receives a 20% commission on licensing transactions facilitated through the MDIIO platform, which is far less than agents who charge 50 to 75% in commission.

With so many innovative features and incentives, it is no surprise that there are more than 3,600+ creators from 19 different countries using MDIIO, representing 15,000 songs being hosted on the platform today. Not all users are indie creators; in fact, some of these users include high profile songwriters that have collaborated with the world’s biggest artists such as Beyonce, Rihanna, Shawn Mendes, and Madonna (to name a few).

As MDIIO continues to grow on the home stage, Songistry is simultaneously striving to expand the platform farther into Asia, where Justin Gray continues to leverage his extensive success and relationships. Songistry has already begun preliminary conversations with labels, publishers, and management companies in Greater China and Asia.

“China is an important emerging market for us,” says Justin. “As copyright protection becomes more critical and major players such as Tencent and Youkou move into royalty-based payment systems, the necessity to track all of the pertinent and important data associated with copyright is more important than ever. Over the next 5 years, royalties and copyrights via China alone will amount to billions and billions of dollars. Someone needs to help provide the infrastructure and ability to shepherd these revenues and create new business models. Songistry/MDIIO is technologically prepared to do exactly that.”

“Despite the impacts of COVID, we continue to grow,” says Curtis, “but no amount of success will ever change the fact that we are an Alberta corporation with access to tremendous support and resources. Edmonton provides us the competitive advantage we would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.”

You can read more about what the Songistry team is up to here.

Granify – Powering the world’s biggest brands

Jeff Lawrence, CEO, Granify

Edmonton region e-commerce giant uses big data to predict the future

More than 3 billion shopper sessions and $10 billion in sales were optimized by the Granify platform in the last year alone. The numbers are staggering and Jeff Lawrence, founder and CEO of Granify, has proven the value that data and behavioural science can bring to e-commerce. 

Granify is an e-commerce optimization platform based in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region that uses data science to predict consumer behaviour and increase purchases. Their software looks at over 500 data points every second, compares that to the behavior of billions of shoppers and translates that data into information that can predict the future. 

“All shoppers visiting an e-commerce website have an agenda,” says Jeff. “Whether it’s to make a purchase or to explore options, everyone comes with a desired outcome. Granify uses digital clues such as scroll speed, products and images viewed, mouse movements and even hesitations to anticipate consumer behaviour and respond accordingly. The amount of information — and the value we derive for our clients from that information —  is incredible.”

The Granify technology, or what Jeff refers to as the “Granify Brain”, can predict a customer’s likeliness to buy, give insight into the reasons for their hesitation and can then address these concerns and help move the customer along the journey to making a final purchase decision.

Granify’s origin story

A self-proclaimed “data geek”, Jeff came up with the vision behind Granify in 2006.

“I’ve been fascinated by data for at least 20 years”, says Jeff. “Early on, I saw the potential for using massive amounts of data to predict and even influence behaviours in consumers. Nobody was really using the vast amount of data that was being collected. I believed that there was a way to use that data to personalize the customer experience.”

At that time the technology did not yet exist to support his vision but in 2011, while Jeff was studying at Stanford University in Silicon Valley, he saw what other organizations were starting to do with big data innovations and knew the time had come to explore his vision. Others told him that what he was envisioning couldn’t be done but Jeff refused to believe them and continued to move forward.

In 2012, Jeff returned to Edmonton to build his team and the first version of Granify was released on the Shopify platform. 

“Originally, I thought about founding this company in Silicon Valley,” says Jeff. “It made a lot of sense. Certainly, no region comes close to matching the amount of technical talent that exists there. But as I spoke to other tech entrepreneurs who were working in that region, I saw a lot of challenges too. There was frustration surrounding the ability to retain talent. There was a high degree of turnover in a lot of those organizations.”

Going where the talent is and building something new

Talent is the lifeblood of any organization and the ability to both attract and retain talent can make the difference in any company’s long-term success. Jeff knew that the University of Alberta had one of the best data science programs in North America, so he decided to go where the talent was.

“I also saw the opportunity to help build something new in the Edmonton region”, says Jeff. “At that time, the tech industry was just starting to emerge, and rather than pile on to what was already happening in Silicon Valley, I was attracted to the idea of being part of building something from the ground up. As a father of two young children, I also saw the benefits of raising a family in the Edmonton region and helping to create a lasting impact in this industry which could continue to yield benefits for the next generation.”

Jeff has seen the region’s attractiveness translate into employee retention in real life.

“We’ve recruited talent from as far as India and South Africa and since relocating, these team members have fallen in love with the Edmonton region,” says Jeff. “The welcoming nature of our region, along with the safety and prosperity that exists here, make it a very attractive place to live.” 

Some members of the Granify team

Jeff’s decision to bet on the Edmonton region for Granify’s success has certainly paid off. Granify has been named one of Alberta’s 25 most innovative companies, Top Digital Startup and Best E-Commerce Solution. They’ve been featured in Inc magazine, VentureBeat, TechCrunch, Cool Companies, Reuters, and many other publications. 

Jeff has a lot to brag about when it comes to Granify – they provide hundreds of millions of dollars in incremental sales to their clients – but Jeff talks about more intangible things when discussing Granify’s success. 

“It all comes down to the people.” says Jeff. “And the Edmonton region has some of the best people. They truly are our competitive advantage. Everyone on our team is intelligent, hardworking, they care about the work they are doing, and they collaborate and work together to build something truly amazing. And above all that, they’re genuinely awesome humans. 

In the last 5 years or so, I’ve seen a real purposeful push in the region, to build community within the tech sector. I have a good network of support from other tech leaders working in this region. Sometimes we’re competing for talent, but at the end of the day, if I’m struggling with something, I can reach out to this network, I can meet another CEO for coffee, and we can support each other.”

Talent in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region

Edmonton Global has launched their latest video highlighting another regional asset of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region –  Talent.

A changing global landscape highlights the importance of talent

“The world is fundamentally changing and so are the practices of growing companies.” said Malcolm Bruce, CEO of Edmonton Global. “In the past, companies have been able to pull people to them. Now companies are the ones on the move and they are going where the talent is. The Edmonton Metropolitan Region produces an incredible amount and diversity of talented people and we’re increasingly attracting people to move here for academic research, to start or expand companies, and to be part of the new economy we’re building.”

Recent changes to the United States Visa programs an opportunity for Canada

Recent changes to the United States Visa programs are making it more difficult for companies to bring in foreign talent. “We need to be on the radar of companies looking to access North American markets and setting up teams,” commented Malcolm. “We need to raise our profile and do more to show off what’s happening here.” The new Talent video and our previous series on the sectors driving the Edmonton Metropolitan Region’s economy are part of building awareness of the region among companies from around the world who are looking to expand. “We want companies to know – if you’re looking to access talent and a community that is open, welcoming, and inclusive, look north to Canada and the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.”

The proposed changes to the United States Visa programs may also make it challenging for international students to continue studying at US universities and colleges. “This presents a significant opportunity for Canada, both for attracting international investment and international students,” commented Malcolm. “Globally recognized top institutions like the University of Alberta can play a key role in attracting some of the world’s best young minds to Canada. And with programs at both the Provincial and National level to fast track citizenship, our goal is to keep them here.” 

You can afford to build a life here

The Edmonton Metropolitan Region’s high quality of life, diverse economy, high average salaries, and low cost of living make it very attractive to young people and young families. It’s the second youngest region in Canada and has been ranked as the best community in Canada for youth and youth work in Youthful Cities 2019 Urban Work Index (https://www.youthfulcities.com/urban-work-index).

Edmonton’s Future

New Regional Development Agency Challenges Edmonton businesses to act globally

If you want to know the future of Edmonton’s economy, a good place to start is with a question: What challenges does the world face and what does the Edmonton region have to offer as solutions?

Emerging markets need food for their burgeoning populations and energy to power their economic growth. The Edmonton Metropolitan Region and the rest of Western Canada produce food and energy in abundance.

Healthcare providers around the world need to find more cost-effective ways to care for aging populations while also providing better preventive health outcomes for the young. Leading innovators such as the pediatric surgeons at the U of A Stollery Children’s Hospital are collaborating to bring forth innovative — and scalable — new strategies in healthcare.

Economies around the world need to confront slowing growth and productivity. The region’s tech researchers and entrepreneurs are among those leading the way in bringing to market powerful new technologies such as machine learning and the internet of things.

“We have a great story to tell, but we don’t sell ourselves well enough,” says Malcolm Bruce, a retired senior military officer who is the CEO of Edmonton Global.

With a blue-chip board and staff with broad international connections, Edmonton Global works for the region’s 15 municipalities and in partnership with more than a dozen economic development agencies and educational institutions to help push the message out to the world.

Edmonton Global represents 15 regional municipalities

Take for instance the region’s petrochemical industry. “We already have the largest petrochemical cluster in Canada with $40 billion in infrastructure and the potential for another $30 billion investment over the next 10 years,” says Bruce.

This isn’t pie in the sky stuff. Two polypropylene plants currently under construction are worth a combined $8 billion and they are prime examples of what people in Bruce’s business mean when they speak of “adding value” locally to Alberta’s resources. It means getting all the parts of the economy to work together, in this case turning petroleum byproducts such as propane into more valuable products.

Once those big plants begin producing millions of tonnes a year of plastic, the next step up this “value chain” is to upgrade plastic pellets into marketable materials, such as the clear wrap used to keep food fresh. Montreal-based Polykar is building a $30 million plant to produce packaging materials in the Discovery Business Park north of Edmonton International Airport. The company is one of several manufacturers investing in the regional value chain.

Amir Karim, President & CEO, Polykar Inc.

We aren’t done yet. We can apply the same idea to agriculture and upgrade Western farm commodities to higher-value products. How about a packaging plant to serve agri-food businesses in the area? Or a pulse fractionator to extract proteins from crops grown in Alberta? These things are coming.

Don’t forget, Bruce adds, the “incredible innovation” that will make the region’s new petrochemical facilities cleaner and more efficient. Green tech and skills developed locally will likely find markets around the world. As that happens, it will signal a major cultural shift for Alberta business.

If you exclude raw commodities, “Up to five years ago, 80 per cent of everything that was built or serviced in Alberta was consumed in Alberta,” Bruce says.

“This regional culture of export, getting out in the global world is not something most businesses had to think about. We’re harnessing all the partners in the region to help us identify companies that are ready for export.”

To attract more foreign direct investment, Edmonton Global has two priorities. One is to find opportunities to grow existing industries in which the region has an advantage, such as energy and agriculture.

Another is to position the region on the ground floor of emerging technologies.

Good things happen when you put the two together: applying technology to make industries cleaner and more productive. He cites numerous examples. Robots developed in Edmonton take people out of hazardous, menial jobs such as cleaning gunk out of petrochemical holding tanks. Drones help to keep airports safe and secure. Technological curiosities of a few years ago, such as 3D printing, are being put to work in Edmonton’s metal fabrication shops. Work done in Edmonton labs in the reinforced learning branch of artificial intelligence will help lead the way to autonomous vehicles and many other uses. Local startup AltaML is working with some of Edmonton’s largest companies to develop machine learning applications in healthcare, finance and other industries that will find markets all around the world.

In agriculture, the expanded Alberta agri-food incubator at Leduc is the largest lab of its kind in North America. It is helping to bring nutritious new products to market and finding ways to extract valuable proteins from pulses and other crops. An R&D lab in Morinville employs PhDs to develop premium products for Champion Pet Foods, a billion-dollar company that is building new production lines in the Edmonton region and Kentucky. By focusing on health-conscious consumers, The Little Potato Co. has grown sales to more than $200 million a year, boosting efficiency by selling production waste to a mushroom grower and a craft distiller.

Edmonton Global, which got up and running last year after a couple years of planning, is supported by the 15 communities of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. While it was developing its business plan, it did a benchmark study with the Conference Board of Canada that compared Edmonton among 22 global cities.

Bruce describes the survey results as “good news, bad news.”

Most respondents were neither negative nor positive. A few thought the region is in the energy business, is remote and disconnected and that it’s cold in the winter.

“The bad news is they don’t think about us, but the good news is we don’t have to change the narrative because they don’t have a narrative anyway.”

Bruce dismisses the perception that the region is disconnected with the world. The reality is that Canada is a major trading partner with global business connections.

“We’ve got a trade agreement with every other G7 nation and we can trade with 1.5 billion people through these agreements,” he points out. “Canada can do a better job to harness those trade agreements and fully exploit them.”

Alberta and Canada maintain official trade presences worldwide backed by export and development banks. Individual Edmontonians have business and professional networks worldwide. Bruce wants them to be on the hunt for new opportunities as they travel the world.

“Our goal now is to weaponize everybody as an ambassador for the region.”

New plant-based manufacturer sets up at EIA

Plant Plus to manufacture plant fibre products in Alberta Aerospace and Technology Centre
Sugarcane fiber straw

June 24, 2020 (Edmonton, AB) – More private investment is coming to Edmonton International Airport (EIA) in 2020. Manufacturing company Plant Plus will be establishing their production line in the Edmonton Metro Region as the newest tenant in EIA’s Airport City beginning in early July.


Plant Plus’ Plant Fiber Polymer tech (PFP tech) products are made from natural plant materials and have been shown by various third-party laboratories not to contain or release toxins. They are reusable, recyclable, compostable alternatives to plastic or paper.

“We are excited and proud to join EIA’s business family! It’s a great opportunity to have a strong business partner to support us in our early stages. The goal of introducing integrated plant fiber 2 technology into Canada will finally be achieved, and it will contribute into EIA-AATC’s green system for a better and sustained economic cycle.”

 – Chenghsun Hsu, CEO & Founder of Plant Plus.

“It’s great to see our competitive tax rates, talented workforce and focus on economic diversification attract more private investment to Alberta. This investment is part of our $1.4 billion value-added agriculture investment attraction goal that is slated to create over 2000 new Alberta jobs. I congratulate Plant Plus for choosing to invest in our agriculture sector and to help strengthen Alberta’s economy.”

– Honourable Devin Dreeshen, Alberta Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.


By locating their production line and distribution centre at EIA and joining the Alberta Aerospace and Technology Centre (AATC), Plant Plus will be able to participate in more collaborative opportunities with partner companies on airport and with EIA’s regional commercial partners. This strategic move will allow Plant Plus to introduce their advanced plant fibre technology into Canada. This move will also help strengthen EIA’s strategic efforts to help diversify Alberta’s and the rest of western Canada’s economy, while expanding economic activity at the airport.

Plant Plus utilizes both renewable materials and recycling from agricultural waste. The company produces single use items, like sugarcane straw production, and will provide services for customized products such as reusable cups, mobile phone cases, flower pots, furniture, building materials etc., with an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program, which provides recovery of damaged products and recycling of renewable materials. The net results of their efforts are:
• added value for agricultural industry, by creating additional byproducts
• reduced carbon emissions from resource extraction, manufacturing and shipping, by extending product life cycle, track carbon footprint.
• reduced plastic waste away from landfill and environment.


The Plant Plus team’s products are an innovative solution to the plastic waste problem; a reusable, readily recyclable, and truly compostable alternative to reduce and hopefully remove the use of conventional plastic in a different way. Their most important feature is to recycle products and achieve a circular economy, not just change the materials or extend a product’s service life. By producing a single-use, recyclable product, Plant Plus can help the environment and provide additional benefits. For example, single use items prevent the spread of disease or viruses, help disabled people and have medical uses, all without any worry about the products being damaged or needing to be cleaned. Plant fibre products can function the same way as the plastic products they replace, ensuring that the impact to the user is minimal. The simple answer for the plastic waste problem is that single use items should be compostable, and reusable items should include an EPR program.

“Our region is increasingly known for innovation. Plant Plus’ decision to locate its production and distribution facility at the Edmonton International Airport (EIA) will not only benefit our local economy, it will provide a whole new set of sustainable packaging options for the agriculture industry, for health and life sciences, and for a myriad of use-cases that I’m sure we’ll see spring up across the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. EIA has established itself as the core hub for international cargo and Plant Plus is about to make our region’s importance to the global supply chain even more clear. Well done and welcome to your new home!”

 – Malcolm Bruce, Edmonton Global CEO.

“This is a perfect example of how Airport City and the AATC work. Plant Plus will import materials and build technology which will increase the production of agricultural products for export from North America.”

– Tom Ruth, EIA President and CEO.

About Plant Plus

Gallop is the brand owner of Plant Plus, which carries true, eco-friendly food and beverage packaging products made by innovative material technology. Since it was founded in 2018, Gallop has been selling Plant Plus straws in North America. For more information visit: https://plant-plus.com/

About Edmonton International Airport

Edmonton International Airport is a self-funded, not-for-profit corporation whose mandate is to drive economic prosperity for the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. EIA is Canada’s fifth-busiest airport by passenger traffic and the largest major Canadian Airport by land area. For more information please visit flyeia.com, or follow @flyeia on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook.

INNOVATION IS KEY TO THE “NEW NORMAL”

Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about the “new normal” – what the world will look like after this global pandemic has left its mark on every aspect of our lives. For us at Alberta Innovates, we are always talking about the next bold idea or the next big shift that has the potential to change how we go about our day to day lives. This creativity is at the heart of innovation – ways that we can use new knowledge or technologies to solve problems and create new opportunities.

“It’s no secret that innovative economies create highly skilled jobs, higher wages, more productivity and exports, and are generally more competitive.”

Innovation is key to growing Albert’a economy, expanding our markets and most importantly, generating new and different opportunities for Albertans. Often, people think that innovation is just technology – but it’s far greater than that.

  • Alberta is home to Canada’s largest integrated provincial health-care system producing unprecedented amounts of data. Digital health technologies and artificial intelligence can accelerate improvements in nearly every aspect of the quality and long-term sustainability of our health system and the health of Albertans.
  • Our agricultural sector is using advanced sensors, remote monitoring, automation, artificial intelligence and blockchain technology creating sustainable production, new digital jobs and improved food security at home and worldwide.
  • Alberta is home to natural materials needed to responsibly supply global demand for carbon fibre, asphalt, polymers, vanadium and other innovative hydrocarbon products. Markets for these advanced materials are estimated to reach more than $212 billion by 2030.
  • Alberta is a global leader in artificial intelligence and machine learning thanks to 20 years of publicly funded research. Artificial intelligence is estimated to add up to $16 trillion to global economic output over the next decade and is already transforming every sector and region.

Innovation isn’t new for Alberta. It’s been the backbone of our economy for a century and has lead to global leadership in many sectors.

Looking to the next 100 years, our support for innovators, entrepreneurship, and work with industry leaders must continue. Innovation will solve challenges and build new capacity in the digital economy – from health to smart agriculture and advanced hydrocarbons – all of which leverage existing advantages and strengths.

The creation and commercialization of new technologies and knowledge-based products is key to Alberta’s future. We have all the pieces in place to build a technology-rich economy that will allow us to compete with other global leaders. Alberta has an active investment capital market, leading universities and the supports to move startups to scale and market commercialization sooner.

It’s no secret that innovative economies create highly skilled jobs, higher wages, more productivity and exports, and are generally more competitive. Holding fast to the status quo is not an option – we need to support, celebrate and build up Alberta’s innovation culture – the unique combination of human ingenuity and resources which are abundant in Alberta. It’s going to take resolve and coordination to shift priorities and concentrate efforts that position Alberta for the advantages and opportunities a research and innovation economy can bring. But the size of the prize is immense.

Through innovation, we have the opportunity of a century to shape the future and to strengthen economic resilience for Albertans today and generations to come.

Token Bitters is scaling up and building international export opportunities

Token Naturals is a cannabis company located in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, focused on extraction and derivative products 

When Keenan Pascal and Jamie Shtay decided to found Token Naturals, a cannabis company focused on extraction and derivative products, they never imagined that they would also become the Edmonton Region’s first local bitters company. They certainly didn’t expect to have a reach that extends beyond the region both nationally and internationally and into markets as far off as Japan. However, that is exactly what they did.   

Initially, the pair was focused on developing their patented extraction process with help from the vast array of talent available from the oil and gas industry that exists in the Edmonton region. Once this was complete, the Token Naturals team found themselves in a bit of a holding period as they moved through the process of licensing phases to sell legal cannabis products with Health Canada. 

A new concept is born 

Keenan and Jamie already had strong ties to the restaurant and bar community in the region and with another founder’s background in chemical engineering and molecular science, an idea was hatched to develop a line of bitters from locally sourced ingredients and the concept behind Token Bitters was born.  

“The process for extraction to produce bitters is essentially the same as the technology we developed for our cannabis extraction business,” said Token Naturals CEO, Keenan Pascal. “We thought this would be a good way to test out and practice our process.” 

What began as a pet project, immediately garnered a positive response within the local region and in just 4 years Token Bitters has resulted in a product that is sold nationally across Canada, exported to Japan, at the precipice of export to Mexico and Europe and has a view to further expansion in international markets. 

Extending the reach of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region 

Each of Token Bitters products is named after beloved Edmonton landmarks. Strathcona Orange is named after the beloved historic neighbourhood, and Whyte Lavender takes its name from the location of co-founder Pascal’s first bartending job. 

Exporting these products is also sharing the stories of this region across the globe.  

Despite the success found in their bitters line, the Token team has not lost sight of the vision for their cannabis extraction business. 

Banking on the Edmonton Metropolitan Region for success 

Co-founder and CEO of Token Naturals, Keenan Pascal is an enthusiastic advocate for the Edmonton Metropolitan Region and what it has to offer. 

“The Edmonton Metropolitan Region has everything we need to build success for our organization,” says Pascal. “Here, we have access to a skilled, young, and eager workforce with plentiful experience in agriculture, manufacturing, and processing. The provincial and municipal governments in the region have traditionally included some of the most proactive and pro-business attitudes. For us, this has been the perfect culmination of the forces required to lead an industry. It’s my opinion that this is the best city to live in and the best city to work in.” 

The idea behind Token Naturals began in Vancouver, but when it came time to decide where the new organization would choose to invest, the founders decided that the Edmonton Metropolitan Region had what they needed to find success. 

Currently, Token Naturals is a late-stage Licensed Producer applicant with Health Canada. The organization recently began construction of an extraction facility that will have the capacity to process 65,000 kg of cannabis flower each year into extracted and derivative products like oils and edibles. The facility is set to open in August 2020. The completion of the refinery facility will allow Token to move forward with their Licensed Producer application from Conditional Approval to a Standard Processor license. 

“We wouldn’t be about to round this corner if not for the supportive environment that exists in the Edmonton region as well as the forward-thinking policies of the provincial and municipal governing bodies,” says Pascal. 

Edmonton’s startup ecosystem in global 100

Edmonton climbed 4 spots in StartupBlink’s global ranking of cities by startup ecosystem, placing it firmly in the top 100 at 91 out of a total of 1000 cities ranked.

StartupBlink is “the world’s most comprehensive startup ecosystem map and research center.” The company releases its Startup Ecosystem Rankings Report once per year, ranking 1,000 cities and 100 countries based on their startup ecosystem activity levels. StartupBlink’s ranking algorithm analyses data points on registered startups, coworking spaces, and accelerators on StartupBlink’s global startup ecosystem map, with supporting data from partners such as SimilarWeb and Crunchbase.

In a recent article, Crunchbase highlighted how Alberta’s 2019 growth is rolling over into new opportunities for 2020, despite what the COVID-19 pandemic has done to business ecosystems around the world.

“Several startups [in Alberta] are well-positioned to meet the current challenges head-on,” wrote Christiana Mazocco following the release of this year’s rankings. “[O]thers are recalibrating to new metrics and constraints by pivoting to different models. We can find opportunities in crisis and see encouraging support through the establishment of new government programs and the emergence of new resources from all sides of Canadian tech.”

Edmonton metro region company Showbie, an education app that aims to combine all the tools teachers need for assignments, feedback, and communication, saw exponential growth as a result of the pandemic as more students shifted from learning in the classroom to learning at home.

“Talent and innovation are key components of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region’s value proposition,” according to Malcolm Bruce, CEO of Edmonton Global. “International investors are looking to cities and regions that are attractive to young people, produce top talent from universities and colleges, are welcoming to immigrants and workers, and are on a clear path to growth. Our region doesn’t just check those boxes, these are our core strengths. I’m pleased to see us moving upwards in the rankings and expect that trend to continue thanks to our education system, our innovation ecosystem, and the increasingly sophisticated startups that are scaling up here.”

Learn more about StartupBlink’s Startup Ecosystem Rankings Report here: https://www.startupblink.com/blog/startup-ecosystem-rankings-report-2020-by-startupblink/

New carbon solution in Alberta delivers use for industrial emissions

World’s largest capacity CO2 pipeline part of expandable capture and storage system

Alberta – June 2, 2020 – A new system built to safely transport and permanently store CO2 is shifting how carbon is managed in the province. The Alberta Carbon Trunk Line (ACTL) system, the world’s newest large-scale carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) project, is now fully operational.


The ACTL system captures industrial emissions and delivers the CO2 to mature oil and gas reservoirs in Central Alberta for use in enhanced oil recovery and permanent storage. The current supply of CO2 is captured at the North West Redwater Partnership (NWR) Sturgeon Refinery and Nutrien’s Redwater Fertilizer Facility, offering a sustainable emissions solution for energy and agriculture sectors. The CO2 then travels down a 240-kilometre pipeline, which is owned by Wolf Midstream, to a storage reservoir owned by Enhance Energy.


The system includes the world’s largest capacity pipeline for CO2 from human activity, capable of transporting up to 14.6 million tonnes of CO2 per year. This is equal to the impact of capturing theCO2 from more than 2.6 million cars in Alberta. Designed with excess capacity, the system will connect more facilities and storage reservoirs in the future as demand increases for an effective solution to manage emissions.


“This is just the beginning,” said Jeff Pearson, President of Wolf Midstream’s Carbon Business Unit. “This critical piece of infrastructure supports significant future emissions solutions, new utilization pathways and innovation in the carbon capture space. The future of energy and a lower carbon economy relies on key infrastructure like the ACTL.”


“This will change how business is done in Alberta,” said Kevin Jabusch, CEO of Enhance Energy, which is injecting CO2 from the ACTL into oil fields near Clive, Alberta. “We are putting CO2 touse. We permanently keep CO2 out of the environment, while producing low-carbon energy. Not only are we reinvigorating our rural energy economy at a time when it is needed most, but we are playing a key role in advancing a sustainable solution to global energy requirements.”


“The Sturgeon Refinery made a bold decision over 15 years ago to incorporate carbon capture into its design,” said Kerry Margetts, President, NWR Sturgeon Refinery, “Our founders believed then, as we are proving today, that carbon capture was our environmental competitive advantage to producing a low carbon intensity diesel from Alberta’s bitumen resources.”


The ACTL system marks an important milestone project on the path for Alberta and Canada to effectively manage carbon emissions and support a cleaner global energy future.


The Alberta Carbon Trunk Line System www.actl.ca
The Alberta Carbon Trunk Line (ACTL) system is the world’s newest integrated, large-scale carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) project. Designed as the backbone infrastructure needed to support Alberta’s lower carbon economy, it has the world’s largest capacity pipeline for CO2 from human activity, capable of transporting up to 14.6 million tonnes of CO₂ per year. This represents approximately 20% of all current oil sands emissions or equal to the impact of capturing the CO2 from more than 2.6 million cars in Alberta.

Pioneered in Alberta, Canada, the ACTL system is now operational. The initial supply of CO2 is captured and compressed from a bitumen refinery and a fertilizer plant in Alberta’s IndustrialHeartland. It is then transported to mature oil fields in Central Alberta for use in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) before permanent storage.


Not only does the ACTL system remove greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and decrease Canada’s carbon footprint, it uses the captured CO₂ to revitalize a light oil industry, leveragingAlberta’s wealth of suitable storage reservoirs, technical expertise and innovative spirit to create thousands of new jobs, and generate meaningful tax revenue.


The multi-faceted ACTL system is owned and operated by a consortium of companies. It has also been supported by both the Government of Alberta (through its Carbon Capture and Storage Fund) and the Government of Canada (through its ecoEnergy Technology Initiative and the Clean
Energy Fund) to help make CCUS technologies more accessible and encourage wider use of the technology around the world.


Wolf Midstream www.wolfmidstream.com
Wolf Midstream (Wolf) is an Alberta-based private company backed by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments). Wolf was formed in 2015 to focus on the acquisition and development of midstream infrastructure and opportunities in Western Canada. Wolf is committed
to transforming the future of carbon reduction through the development of world scale CO2 infrastructure in both Canada and abroad. Wolf is the owner and operator of the compression facilities at the two capture sites, as well as the 240-kilometre pipeline that safely transports the CO2 from the capture sites to the CO2 EOR operation in Central Alberta.


Enhance Energy www.enhanceenergy.com
Enhance Energy (Enhance) is a private oil and gas development company specializing in EOR and focused on using CO2 for miscible flooding. Enhance is the owner and operator of the utilization and storage portion of the ACTL system through its CO2 EOR operation at the Clive field in Central Alberta. The leadership team has extensive experience in the energy industry including the planning and implementation of similar, large-scale CO2 EOR projects. Enhance’s ability to store CO2 while increasing light oil production will result in a new and significant low carbon source of fossil fuel production.


North West Redwater Partnership www.nwrsturgeonrefinery.com
The North West Redwater Partnership (NWR) is a joint venture between NWU LP (Alberta), owned by North West Refining Inc. (Alberta) and CNR (Redwater) Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Canadian Natural Resources Limited. NWR operates the Sturgeon Refinery near Redwater, Alberta. It is the world’s only refinery designed from the ground up to minimize its environmental footprint through carbon capture. Phase 1 of the refinery captures 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 per year, which serves as the anchor supply for the ACTL. Because of its carbon capture solution, diesel produced at the Sturgeon Refinery is the lowest “wells-to-wheels” CO2 transportation fuel based on heavy feedstock.


Nutrien www.nutrien.com
Nutrien is the world’s largest provider of crop inputs and services, playing a critical role in helping growers increase food production in a sustainable manner. Nutrien is the owner and operator of the Redwater Fertilizer Facility, which captures approximately 0.3 million tonnes of previously
vented CO2 per year.


Nutrien has also used carbon capture since 2013 as a technical option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions at their Geismar, LA facility, diverting more than 248,000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere in 2019.

EIA setting records with cargo charter flights

Two of the three Antonov AN-124 planes expected at EIA arrived late on Friday, May 29. (Credit to Edmonton International Airport)

Multiple flights, three Antonov
AN-124 planes handled in one day

May 30, 2020 (Edmonton, AB) – Edmonton International Airport is a hub of activity this weekend with the arrival of multiple cargo-related charter flights, helping set new records for this service and providing needed revenue.

Cargo charter flights are unique flights that are contracted specifically for dedicated cargo, beyond what would normally be transported in the underside of regular passenger flights or scheduled freighter services. With the substantially reduced flight schedules due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cargo charters continue enabling the movement of critical goods. In the first quarter of 2020, total cargo volumes at EIA were up seven per cent compared to Q1 in 2019.

This tremendous bright spot for EIA will be highlighted by the arrival of three Antonov AN-124 planes within 24 hours. The Antonov-124 is one of the largest planes in the world, surpassed only by the Antonov AN-225 and a small group of specialty transport planes. These AN-124 planes will be parked at multiple aprons at EIA as they require complex logistical operations and need large maneuvering and handling areas for safety.

“Our cargo team has been working flat out during this time of crisis to secure flights for EIA and help put our vast cargo infrastructure to good use for our community and region to keep supply chains moving. We’ve never hosted three Antonov flights in such a compressed period and we’re proud of how our entire cargo community has risen to this challenge. EIA offers several competitive advantages for cargo delivery including being the closest major North American airport to Asia via circumpolar routes, as well as close access to rail and trucking distribution systems.”

  • Tom Ruth, President and CEO, Edmonton International Airport

“We’re pleased to work with Edmonton International Airport. Their cargo team has gone above and beyond to facilitate our needs for our clients and ensure our flights are handled professionally with all essential security procedures needed and on time. We appreciate professional assistance provided ensuring on time performance for our charters carrying vital PPE cargo.”

  • Ekaterina Andreeva, Commercial Director Charter Cargo Operations, Volga-Dnepr Airlines operator of the Antonov flights

Due to client confidentiality, the exact manifest, details and volumes of each cargo plane cannot be released. Many of the cargo charters have been dedicated to medical personal protective equipment but there has also been an increase in e-commerce deliveries associated with more online shopping. Flights have been coming from multiple parts of the world including Asia, the United States and Europe. In the coming weeks more cargo charter flights are currently scheduled to arrive at EIA, showing continual demand for this service.

“We look forward to welcoming back more passengers in the future but until that time cargo flights are bringing needed traffic and activity to EIA and the entire Edmonton region. We plan to keep building on the relationships we’re establishing for many years to come, to the benefit of our entire region.”

  • Tom Ruth, President and CEO, Edmonton International Airport

Facts about the Antonov-124

  • Aircraft weight – 402 tonnes
  • Lift capacity – 150 tonnes or roughly 23 African elephants
  • Dimensions
    • Length – 69.1m
    • Height – 20.8m
    • Wingspan – 73.3m
  • Speed
    • Top speed 865 kmph
    • Cruise speed 800 – 850 kmph
  • Range – up to 5,000km (depending on cargo weight)
  • Number of aircraft worldwide – 55
  • Country of manufacture – Ukraine and Russia

About Edmonton International Airport

Edmonton International Airport is a self-funded, not-for-profit corporation whose mandate is to drive economic prosperity for the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. EIA is Canada’s fifth-busiest airport by passenger traffic and the largest major Canadian airport by land area. EIA offers non-stop connections to destinations across Canada, the US, Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe. EIA is a major economic driver, with an economic output of over $3.2 billion, supporting over 26,000 jobs. EIA’s Airport City propels new jobs, tourism and economic diversification – and creates a destination in and around EIA, featuring entertainment, e-commerce, retail, hospitality, cargo/logistics, bio-pharma, light manufacturing and many other industries. EIA is focused on digital strategy to ensure it becomes the airport of the future. For more information, please visit: flyeia.com, follow @flyeia on TwitterInstagramLinkedin or Facebook.

About Volga-Dnepr Group

Volga-Dnepr Group is the world leader in the unique, oversize and heavy cargo market, successfully representing the Russian airfreight industry in the international market since 1990. The Group’s core businesses are charter cargo operations using unique AN-124-100 and IL-76TD-90VD heavy transporters (Volga-Dnepr Airlines) and scheduled cargo operations using the fleet of Boeing 747 (AirBridge Cargo Airlines) and Boeing 737 (Atran Airlines) freighters.

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